Opiate replacement therapy is a treatment option for opioid addiction that has existed since the early 1970s. Doctors and researchers have improved the program over time, and while two types of opiate replacement therapy medications now exist for the treatment of this addiction syndrome, every patient is different in their requirements for care and should be considered for their specific needs before they begin treatment.
What Is Opiate Replacement Therapy?
Opiate replacement therapy is another term for medication maintenance. A person receives a medication daily in order to minimize their withdrawal symptoms and reduce their cravings. They are maintained on the drug without experiencing the euphoric effects that opioids often cause when taken in high doses, and they can live their lives without fear of these types of effects.
Opiate replacement therapy is currently not as popular a term as medication maintenance in the addiction treatment community, partly because it implies a person’s addiction to either prescription or illicit opioids is being replaced with another addiction to a medically sanctioned drug. However, this is not the case at all, and as stated by the Journal of Addictive Diseases, the role of the medication in this type of treatment program “is not simply replacement of an illicitly used opiate for a medically supervised opiate but rather as a medication that corrects many of the neurobiological processes contributing to relapse.”
What Are the Medications Used in Opiate Replacement Therapy?
There are two medications currently being used as opiate replacement therapy drugs: methadone and buprenorphine. These two substances can treat the issues associated with opioid addiction recovery as stated above and can allow a patient to navigate their recovery more safely as they will not have as high a risk of relapse.
- Methadone: Methadone is an opioid agonist that has been used as an opiate replacement therapy since the 1970s. When dosed correctly, it will not cause the euphoric effects associated with other opioids. However, when taken in high doses, it can cause these effects, as well as overdose and addiction. This is why the drug can only be dispensed through a licensed treatment clinic.
- Patients are usually given 80 to 120 mg doses of methadone every day.
- Methadone maintenance treatment usually lasts for at least a year, and many individuals stay on the drug indefinitely.
- If a person does decide to stop using methadone, they have to make the decision with their doctor and be weaned off it slowly.
- Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is a much newer medication that was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2002 to treat opioid addiction and dependence (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). It works similarly to methadone in that it blocks the opioid receptors in the brain and minimizes withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
- Buprenorphine is much safer in an abuse situation than methadone, though, which is why it is not as strictly regulated as the other drug. It has a ceiling effect, which prevents it from causing intense overdose effects in many cases of abuse. In addition, the brand name medication Suboxone also contains naloxone, which precipitates withdrawal in anyone who attempts to crush and snort the drug.
- You can get buprenorphine at a doctor’s office instead of just in a specialized clinic like methadone. The doctor must be licensed to dispense buprenorphine, though.
Whether you choose to receive methadone or buprenorphine as your opiate replacement therapy, you must remember that your treatment isn’t whole without a behavioral therapy regimen of some kind. Addiction treatment requires this type of care in addition to medication because behavioral therapy helps individuals learn to cope with their addictions and avoid further issues. Most opiate replacement therapy programs also provide some type of behavioral therapy as well.
Where Can I Find Opiate Replacement Therapy?
There are many clinics, doctor’s offices, and rehab centers where you can begin this treatment program for your safe and effective recovery from opioid addiction. Call 800-530-0431 now to find the best options for your personal treatment situation and to be matched with programs that will take your insurance plan and offer you the type of care you need.